One morning in Oaxaca, I wake up with an onward bus ticket on my mind. I am supposed to leave the following day.
I head out of the hostel earlier than normal and make my first stop at a bank. The ATM line is long and moving at a sloth’s pace. I share sighs and smiles with the other people waiting. As more bank customers approach, they spot their friends in the line and make conversation and gestures about their disbelief of the size of the line before dutifully taking their places at the end of it.
It’s these little insights that I love so much about being in Oaxaca and Mexico in general. The little moments where locals allow you feel like you’re part of their world as you take part in everyday tasks with them. You’re a random tourist in the mix, but more importantly, you’re just another person.
Once cash has been procured, I visit the markets and shops and stock up on unique to Oaxaca gifts and mezcal and chocolate. When I have everything I was looking for, I walk over to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. I want to find the right place to have a cup of Oaxaca style hot chocolate with ground almonds and cinnamon in it.
I settle on a comedor where a family of four is finishing up their meal and an older couple chats with the chef as they eat. The chef is Lidia and her little eatery is named after her. Comedor “Lidia”. I like the way the food stall signs have the names of the people who run them in quotation marks.
I give Lidia my order. She breaks off a chunk of chocolate from a huge bar and puts it into hot milk in a pot. She rubs a molinillo between her palms and whisks until the chocolate is frothy. She pours the hot chocolate into a small bowl and insists that I have a pan dulce roll to eat with it. She is right, the airy bread is the right companion for the chocolate. When she has made sure I have everything I need, she leans on the counter and resumes her conversation with the the older couple.
I sip the chocolate and dip the bread and people watch in the market. Leaving the next day doesn’t feel quite right. I can’t wait to get back to get back to Mexico City, but I want to spend just one more day in delving into Oaxaca’s heart.
Later that afternoon, I walk over to the bus station to change my onward ticket to a day later. It does not escape me that almost exactly a year before, I took the same walk for exactly the same reason. It’s hard for me to leave Oaxaca.
Travel can be full of spectacular sights and spectacular emotions that are fleeting and keep you moving in your quest for more. But those places where you want nothing more than the everyday are golden; they urge you to lay your backpack down a little longer and bask in pure contentment.